Knee replacement surgery is becoming a more popular option for those people who experience pain, stiffness and a loss of function in one or both knees that prevents them from performing activities they want or need to perform. This occurs when the cartilage that cushions the bones in the knee becomes thin as a result of arthritis. The pain results from the bones of the joint rubbing against each other.
A knee replacement is performed by a knee surgeon who replaces the ends of the bones with an artificial joint made of plastic and metal. The plastic components of the artificial joint work to cushion the knee like the missing cartilage once did while the metal parts add stability and allow the joint to bend. Many people who have arthritis in their knee can be treated effectively with medication or physical therapy without the need for joint replacement knee surgery. For many, losing weight can provide them with adequate relief by taking pressure off the joint. However, for those individuals who have not been successful at relieving their symptoms by other means, replacing the joint may be the best option.
3 or More Weeks Prior to the Surgery
Having knee replacement surgery is not typically as simple as scheduling the appointment and showing up. There are things you will need to do to prepare for the surgery and for your recovery.
• Often, the knee surgeon will recommend that you follow an exercise routine ahead of the scheduled procedure in order to strengthen the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh. Strengthening these muscles will make your recovery faster and easier.
• Schedule a complete exam with your primary care physician to ensure that you are healthy enough to undergo the joint replacement surgery.
• Visit your dentist to make sure there are no problems with your teeth or gums. Bacteria in your mouth can spread through your system to the knee and infect the new joint.
One Week Prior to the Surgery
• Make sure that your knee surgeon is aware of any prescription medications you are taking and that they are approved to take throughout the surgery. Get any refills needed so that they are available after the surgery.
• Stop taking supplements or any other drugs not approved by your surgeon.
• Do not take any anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin or ibuprofen.
• If you take blood thinners, stop them now.
• Find a responsible driver to take you to the procedure who will be there to bring you back home.
• Pack ahead for the time you will be required to stay in the hospital after the surgery. Include clothing that is loose and easy to put on and take off.
The Day Prior to the Surgery
You will probably be instructed not to eat or drink the night before the surgery is scheduled. Make sure of which regular medications you should or should not take prior to the knee replacement surgery .
After the Surgery
On average, the knee surgeon will allow you to leave the hospital on the third day after surgery. Pain medication should be prescribed as needed. Travel is not recommended immediately after the procedure. Physical therapy will be required for recovery, taking anywhere from eight weeks to four months for full recovery.